Archive for February, 2008

Leap Year

Midnight. It’s February 29 for the first time in 4 years, with the next such date not showing up on calendars for another four. Last Feb. 29 I was slowly returning to running after a long bout of iliotibial band syndrome while looking ahead to finishing grad school. I usually try to stay present, but it’s fun to let myself wonder a little where I could possibly touch down after the leap of another four years.

“Leap, and a net appears.” That saying, printed on a refrigerator magnet for sale in a bookstore, pulled at me more than a decade ago. I remembered it, and more than once it’s provided a shot of courage.

Between leaps, what to do with this whole extra day?

I’m not in a position to manifest the way I’d most like to spend the 24 hours, but that’s all right. It’s still looking good. Most mornings I begin with a few quiet minutes thinking about the good fortune of waking up healthy and all I’m grateful for. The sunrise will bring two extra things to appreciate: It’s pay day and a day off for mid-semester break. Perhaps fitting for a marathon trainer on a day that conjures up an image of leg movement, I treated myself and scheduled a much-needed pedicure.

Beside that appointment, my time isn’t structured. Depending on how I feel upon waking I’ll either finish a freelance writing assignment or head out for the week’s long run of 20 miles. Since I’m up late as usual, most likely I’ll get into less taxing scribe mode. Then I’ll go forward from there. Maybe even leap.

What will you do with this whole extra day?

13.1 Miles of the Historic Triangle

Event:Anheuser Busch Colonial Half Marathon
When & Where:1 p.m. Feb. 24, Williamsburg, Va.
Results: 1:51:53 (watch time)/1:52:32 (gun time)/14th out of 50 in 35-39 age group and 413 of 857 overall.

Colonial Williamsburg, about 80 miles northwest of where I’m currently living, draws thousands of tourists and history buffs each year with its live-action resurrection of pre-Revolutionary War life in the soon-to-be United States. Today, more than 800 runners flocked to one of the oldest areas in America to experience the revolution of their feet over 13.1 miles of challenging, rolling hills.

I ran this race in 2006 as a two-hour easy training run and looked forward to traveling the pretty course again. Today practicing marathon-pace running on hills was the goal.

I left North Carolina at 9:30 a.m., plenty of time for the out of the ordinary 1 p.m. race start time. Runners sign in and wait in William and Mary Hall, the athletic fieldhouse for the College of William & Mary.  W & M is a strong running school, so the race is a fitting fund-raiser for the school’s athletic programs.

Waiting in the field house, finish behind me

Going to races alone can be lonely, so it was nice to see familiar faces when I arrived. A local running friend and occasional partner, Bill, was ready for the Half. His son Brett pinned a number on for his second-ever 5K, and Bill’s wife Kathy was there to cheer for her guys. Another Cathie, who trains with the same coach as I do, came west from her home in Virginia Beach for the Half. Cathie and I, who paired up for many coached track workouts last fall, decided to start together and see how long we wanted to run in tandem today.

How do you eat for an early afternoon race? My solution was my normal long run breakfast at 7 a.m., followed by a Clif Bar and Gatorade at 11. I didn’t feel any hunger or stomach discomfort before the start, and pinned a Gu to my shorts for a mid-race boost.

fife and drum corps lead to the start

This being one-third of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, a fife and drum corps marched from the field house to lead the runners to the start. We jogged down and around to warm up, then got in the Port-a-John line with what I hoped was enough time until the start. But as soon as my turn came, I heard the gun go off. Oops! I ran out as quickly as I could and kept going to catch up with the field. Somehow I remembered to start my watch at the line, and the race was on!

My first mile was a combination of surging to catch up to Cathie, wasting energy maneuvering around others, and trying to adjust hastily pulled up shorts with built-in briefs. I caught Cathie and got comfortable, so it was time to settle in to pace. At Mile 1 my watch showed 8:27.  Each mile varied from 8:15 – 8:39 except Mile 11 where my right hamstring threatened to cramp if I asked it to power up one more hill, so I eased off to a 9:18 mile.

The course starts on campus and travels through a small section of hillyWilliamsburg before heading out on a hilly private paved drive through the woods for four hilly miles.  Then there’s a short loop bordering a hilly golf course and cutting through Busch corporate grounds before retracing the hilly woods and, by then, mercilessly climbing back up through hillyWilliamsburg to finish inside William & Mary Hall. It is as fun and full of sights as it is difficult! 

Williamsburg’s hills aren’t steep, but constantly rolling. The race includes scant flat segments, so it’s great practice for Boston. I laughed as one male runner in front of me opted to skip down the hills and run the other segments. Another pair, ultrarunners perhaps, walked the uphills and easily caught me past the summits.  In the last mile I enviously told them, “You two have the right idea!”

The race has one of those torturing, teasing ends where you arrive at the Finish area but have to circumnavigate it, Mecca like, before entering. I was ready to be done and charged into the fieldhouse feeling strong. Cathie was done less than a minute later. Waiting at the finish was Barbara, a race volunteer who I know from an online running community. It was a treat to come in and see her smiling face, then get acquainted in person for a little while.

I transitioned into the 21st century for a few hours with stops to eat at Quizno’s and shop at Trader Joe’s, Borders Books, and Target in Newport News before driving back across the state line into the also historic, but definitely not hilly, Dismal Swamp.

As I rolled the last couple miles to my house, the ’80s new wave hit “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls played on the radio.

Boston Training: Week 5 Recap

This week started and ended with hilly, approximately 13 mile runs. Put them together, and I’ve got all but the last .1 of a marathon. What a difference six days and several hundred miles make. Monday’s run treated me to big, soft-falling snowflakes in my face. On Sunday, I wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, feeling warm in sunny near 50 degree weather.

Eight weeks until race day!

(Monday 2/18 — 13 easy on hills ) <— counted with last week’s training miles

Week 5, Feb. 19-24

Tuesday — 6 easy (road)

Wednesday — taught spinning; 3 easy (treadmill); weights

Thursday — 8 miles with 8 x 2:00 pickups (road)

Friday – 5  easy (treadmill)

Saturday — rest

Sunday — Ran hilly Colonial Half Marathon at marathon pace (8:33 avg.), easy warm-up and cool-down before and after.

Totals:  37 miles + 1 cross-training workout, 1 weights session, 8 yoga & pilates sessions (teaching plus home practice). Those miles are for this “training week.” Actual mileage Monday – Sunday was 50.

Good stuff: I was healthy and able to complete every workout. I’ve been reminded in a few ways today that anything else really is a bonus.

Stuff to keep an eye on: Nothing specific this week other than the usual quality fuel in appropriate quantities, regular stretching/yoga, and getting enough rest. Lately I am like a kid who doesn’t want to go to bed and miss out on fun.

Goals for the coming week: Remember what I wrote in “Good Stuff” during Thursday’s planned 5-mile tempo workout I am already dreading. Successfully and enjoyably complete first 20-mile long run of this training program Saturday.

Straying from the Trail

One benefit of being the offspring of educators was seemingly limitless time each summer for family excursions and bonding. My parents, who still travel so avidly and extensively that I can’t always keep track of their coordinates, loaded my brother and I into the Family Truckster each June. I saw free-roaming bison herds in North Dakota’s Badlands, splashed in clear, icy Rocky Mountain creeks, and stepped gingerly to avoid contact with a Prickly Pear Cactus’ spines in New Mexico.

Was I smart enough then to appreciate the enrichment and allow the natural world’s miracles and wild beauty to saturate an impressionable brain? 

Killens Pond Trail near Dover DE

Absolutely not. 

A sedentary kid who loved to read, write, daydream, and draw, my idea of enjoying the outdoors involved a motel that had a swimming pool. I’m pretty sure I was bribed into joining family hikes more than once.

Miraculously that fresh air settled in my subconscious, staying dormant for about a decade. In high school and college I began getting out with friends for car camping, hiking, and paddling. One of my favorite undergraduate professors taught landscape and documentary photography, introducing students to their surroundings through a long lens. Some of my earliest runs were on northern Minnesota’s pine-needled paths, not because I particularly wanted to run, but because the setting moved me so much that I couldn’t just stroll through it.

Bribery-free outdoor time w/mom & dad

Ironically, this infrequent TV viewer learned from a recent broadcast news report that far fewer kids are meeting the world through the interpretive hikes and park ranger presentations I “endured” during those Griswald-esque summers. The story was based on a study published this week in the journal Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences reports 18 to 25 percent declines in nature-based recreation worldwide. The research authors looked at several decades of parkland use, camping activity, and game permits in the U.S., Japan, and Spain and proclaimed “an ongoing and fundamental shift away from nature-based recreation.”

Ledges Trail Cuyohoga Valley NP

When I let myself, I worry how this will impact conservation and environmental practices in a few generations’ time. Right now “green” is a hip buzzword. I believe many positive habits are catching on, but if young people don’t get to stray off the beaten path, will they still have the opportunity to fall in love with the natural world enough to fight for it?

As a health educator I don’t need to speculate about the increased personal detriments from less outdoor recreation, which I’d hypothesize is directly replaced by a video screen of some kind. Sedentary kids are unhealthy kids, with higher risks for and rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. No doubt this will diminish individual quality of life and harm the future in large-scale ways. For the first time in the modern era, babies now enter the world with a shorter average life expectancy than that of their new moms and dads.

I can ruminate about it all, but do I have a comprehensive solution? Absolutely not.

With a decade of mostly road running under my calloused feet, the trails are luring me back. I can no longer ignore their rocky, rutted siren song. After the Boston Marathon, I aim to steeply elevate my off-road explorations. My hope is the inspiration and discovery I’ll surely be enriched with out there will include ideas about incorporating fresh air into what I consider my professional mission: introducing people to their own power to create their highest levels of physical well-being.

No nature lover wants a crowded path, but it appears there’s plenty of room for more little feet to step onto the trails and follow into the future.

It’s Official!

I am a registered entrant in the 112th Boston Marathon.  The e-mail arrived on Sunday.

Coincidentally, I had been wondering about my application and was searching the Boston Athletic Association web site for my name earlier in the day. Once in a while we do get those answers we seek serendipitously.

Here’s my invitation to this year’s Patriot’s Day Party:

BAA 112th Boston Marathon logoThis is to notify you that your entry into the 112th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21, 2008 has been accepted, provided that the information you submitted is accurate.You can verify your acceptance into the field by searching the 112th Boston Marathon “Entrants” database on the B.A.A. web site, www.baa.org/2008/cf/Public/EntryLists.cfm. Additionally, an acceptance postcard will be mailed to you via US Postal Service mail.In early April 2008, an official Number Pick-up Card and extensive information regarding the B.A.A. Boston Marathon and related race week activities will be mailed to you via US Postal Service first class mail. If you do not receive your Number Pick-up Card (required to claim number) and brochure by April 11, please contact our Registration Office at

registration@baa.org. Registration related inquiries may also be directed to 508-435-6905.Note that bib numbers will not be distributed on Race Day. Your travel arrangements should take into account picking up your number at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Friday, April 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., or Saturday, April 19 or Sunday, April 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you in April! Best of luck in your training!

Sincerely,

Boston Athletic Association

Boston Training: Week 4 Recap

If The Beatles can have “Eight Days a Week” to show you just how much they care, I figure I can have eight days a week to run. This “week’s” training cycle is a little weird. Due to travel and a 5K race, I ended up doing a medium long run on a Monday instead of over the weekend. Since the long run is a key part of marathon training, I’m including it with Week 4. Just don’t tell the Fab Four, OK?

Week 4, Feb. 11-18

Monday 2/11 — 8.25 easy (roads)

Tuesday — 7 miles total with 10 X “hill” repeats (overpass and roads)

Wednesday — taught spinning; 4 miles easy (treadmill); weights

Thursday — rest day

Friday – 5.25 miles easy (roads, path, and short snow detour)

Saturday — 8.1 miles including a 5K race in 23:34 (7:37 pace) with easy warm up and cool-down

Sunday — rest day; 2 mile slushy icy trail hike with a little running mixed in, but not enough to count miles

Monday 2/18 — 13 miles “easy” on a hilly road course (pictured below)

Hinkley hills run

Totals: 46 miles + 1 cross-training workout, 1 weights session, 6 yoga & pilates sessions (teaching plus took 1 yoga class)

Good stuff:Enough for several blog entries! In summary: great hill running practice, a little trail running and a lot of trail exploration, an age-group award in the 5K, and excellent company on the runs. This was a great training week for sure.

Stuff to keep an eye on:My right iliotibial band and iliopsoas are feeling pretty tight from the hills. Time to get on the foam roller and be diligent about stretching the hard-to-stretch psoas.

Goals for the coming week:Today’s run was supposed to be at least 16 miles, so I’ve got at least 3 miles I’d like to add in here and there. Sunday is the Colonial Half Marathon in Williamsburg, Va. I ran this race two years ago and can’t wait to do it again. Right now I’m planning to run it faster than marathon pace but not yet at goal Half Marathon pace. It’s another rolling course so I’m looking forward to a challenging run on a gorgeous course.

A Yogic Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day! This year I find myself enthused about the Hallmark Holiday for a change. Sure it’s a bit contrived and more than a bit commercialized, but what is so bad about a day that encourages people to be more loving all around?

So many times, people turn their backs to you
‘Cause they don’t wanna see what’s inside of you
‘Cause lookin’ inside of you
They might realize there’s something inside of them
They might not wanna find
But it ain’t about who ya love, (who ya love)
See it’s all about do ya love, (do ya love)
— Michael Franti

Though Valentine’s Day has evolved from its saintly or possibly pagan origins into yet another retail sales benchmark, there are plenty of low-cost and no-cost ways to spread some love. Here’s one I found:

Thai Yoga Massage

Yoga Journal also features an 8-minute video of a few better-known modern yogis looking at relationships from their own perspectives.  I found it an insightful reminder of what I’ve read more than once, that a relationship is the ultimate day-to-day yoga practice.

Let Love Rule, y’all.

On a related note I’ll be traveling for the next several days, but plan to be back with some good training updates. Keep an eye on this place for me, will ya?


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